Addressing COVID-19 impacts on agriculture and food security.

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The ban on travel did not only affect the availability of food products but also access to it. And with job losses, the purchasing power of consumers has become another compelling issue. 

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Photo credit: Jannis Knorr

The measures which were put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 have seen to it two major shifts in the agricultural sector; a shift in producers' supply and consumers' demand for food products. However, as the economy is preparing to rejuvenate into a new, yet monitored reality, it is thus prudent to understand and examine how COVID-19 safety measures brought about these two shifts.

1. Shift in producers’ Supply

Restriction of movements from one place to another, curtailed the transfer of factors of production, especially labor, from one point to where it’s needed. This has been felt in large farms, where perishable food products go to waste when they take longer to be shipped to the market.

On the other hand, lockdowns and travel bans, have resulted in the accumulation of surplus production and delayed deliveries which has put pressure and stretched the storage facilities.

Delays have also been experienced due to short-handed staff and numerous stopovers to assess the drivers' Covid-19 health status.  

2. Shift in consumers' demand.

The closure of restaurants and food service providers in schools, hotels, and catering businesses, caused a reduction in demand for some food products. For example, potatoes for French fries, seafood, dairy products, and other fast foods.

To keep pace with the COVID-19 guidelines, the agriculture sector has made the necessary adjustments. For instance, moving to online platforms, making home deliveries, and hiring temporary staff.

The ban on travel did not only affect the availability of food products but also access to it. And with job losses, the purchasing power of consumers has become another compelling issue.

For governments to counter these two major shifts in food production, they should observe the following.

  1. Establish strong and flexible supply chains from farm to the market. This will respond to the shifts in consumers' demand, by providing clear and transparent communication at the domestic level, and avoid trade restrictions to reduce instability.

  2. Open international markets for agriculture and food products to fill the gap that foreign markets had previously occupied.

  3. Ensure market transparency by providing clear and transparent market information.

  4. Look and plan ahead. COVID-19 offers an opportunity to enhance the resilience, sustainability, and productivity of the food sector.

  5. Ensure the food and nutritional needs of vulnerable populations are met – now and in the future

  6. Develop increased preparedness for future shocks so as to keep the economy afloat.

  7. Support the transition to a more resilient agricultural sector and food system

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